After applying to potentially dozens of job opportunities, finding out you've been invited to an interview can be both exciting and overwhelming. An interview represents the chance to direct your career and life as a whole in a whole new direction, with a new job offering many new opportunities. The pressure to perform on the big day itself, then, can often be intense.
While interviews can, indeed, be nerve-wracking, especially for some personality types, there's plenty we can do to ensure we land the job. Namely, a successful interview involves preparation, self-confidence, and the ability to highlight your personal achievements.
Below, we've detailed exactly how to prepare for an interview and some advice on making sure you stand out from the crowd.
Research and prepare
After receiving notification that you're invited to come in for an interview, you'll want to do a bit of sleuthing. Fire up your favourite web browser, grab a pen and paper, and begin researching the company. Look at the company's website, its blog, social media pages, and also news articles it may be featured in.
You'll want to make note of the company's origin, significant events in its history such as acquisitions, mergers, and expansion into new territories, as well as awards its received and initiatives they've initiated.
Interviewers are looking for you to be interested in the role you're applying for, and show an understanding of the company, where it's been and where it's going. You won't want to necessarily recite all you've learned at once but, instead, refer to what you've learned throughout the interview whenever it's relevant.
You will also want to make sure you know as much as you can about the role you are applying for. Research the role and its responsibilities, taking time to consider how your experience and qualifications make you suitable for the job. Condense this down to two or three sentences, otherwise known as an “elevator pitch,” succinctly describing why you are the ideal candidate for this role.
Practice your responses
Interviews are conducted in a variety of different formats. Whether your interview is an informal chat or a structured list of questions, you'll still want to prepare your answers ahead of time. Thinking of your answers on the spot is not recommended as it can lead to hesitation and missing important details.
While you won't know exactly what questions you're going to be asked, interviews tend to ask the following:
● "Tell me about yourself."
● "Where did you find out about this role?"
● “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”
● "What made you decide to apply for this position?"
● "What is your biggest strength and weakness?"
● “What are your ambitions?”
You can also find lists online of common questions asked by interviewers for the specific role you are applying for.
At several stages during the interview, you will be given the opportunity to explain how your experience and qualifications make you suitable for the job opening. These are opportunities for you to use the STAR method that highlight your unique strengths and skills.
The STAR method is a technique to tell a story during an interview that ticks all the boxes the employer is looking for:
● Situation: Begin by setting the scene and explaining the problem or challenge you faced.
● Task: Next, describe what was required of you.
● Action: Explain how you solved the problem using your training, skills, and abilities.
● Result: Finish by discussing how your actions led to a positive outcome, painting yourself in a good light.
Dress appropriately and be mindful of body language
While your verbal responses are important, you should also make efforts to look your best and project a sense of confidence.
Most job interviews are formal affairs and will require you to wear professional or business attire such as a suit or blouse. Each company is different, however, and you'll need to use your best judgement. Some modern companies enjoy a relaxed atmosphere and casual clothing is not unheard of.
Most interview invitations won't state the expected dress code so if in doubt, dress smartly.
You'll also want to be mindful of your body language from first impressions right through the interview process. Sitting up straight, making eye contact, and expressing yourself with your hands when talking are all signs that you are comfortable and confident in the situation. This signals to an interviewer that you are someone that can handle the responsibilities and challenges that the role comes with.
Show some personality
During several stages of the interview, there will be plenty of opportunity for small talk. This may begin as soon as you enter the room and shake hands with an interviewer potentially asking if you found the location OK.
It is important to realise these seemingly non-important questions are often used as ways to bring out your real personality and should be treated as significant as the formal part of the interview. Both you and your employer want to make sure your personality is a good fit for the company. Being yourself is therefore vital here.
If you find your interviewer talking about something you have an interest in, share a thought or insight you believe to be of relevance. This creates a common ground that can give your chances of landing the job a leg up. If your interviewer begins talking about subjects you are unfamiliar with, show interest and ask questions to demonstrate a willingness to learn.
An interview is not just a chance for the employer to find out about you but is also an opportunity for you to learn more about the job. You should, therefore, arrive at your interview prepared with a few questions of your own.
Typically towards the end of the interview, your interviewer will ask you if you have any questions. Not only is this an opportunity to clear up anything regarding the role you’re unsure about, but also shows you an eagerness and a preparedness that bodes well for your chances.
Questions you might like to ask include:
● “Can you elaborate on what a typical day’s responsibilities would be?”
● “What metrics would be used to gauge my performance in this role?”
● “What sort of career path does this role entail?”
● “What other departments does this role require working closely with?”
Keep in touch and reflect
After finishing your interview, be sure to follow up with an email or a letter explaining that you appreciated the opportunity and hope to hear from the company again. Also be sure to make notes for your own records of areas you feel you excelled during the interview and where you could improve. Write down points that your interviewer especially focused on and reflect on your responses.
Whether you receive a job offer after your interview or not, paying attention to how the interview process went can help improve and perform even better in future interviews and your career as a whole.